Young Pioneer Tours

Is it worth going to Greenland after Antarctica (and vice-versa)?

Morgan Bourven

Sure, both territories are cold, covered in ice and offer incredible views of icebergs. But they are vastly different from each other.

YPT has been offering trips to Greenland and Antarctica for a few years now (read here: “What is it like visiting Antarctica with YPT?”) and have more of them planned: our next Greenland cruise will leave in September, and we’ll be back on the Frozen continent in March 2024. If you’ve already seen one or the other, you may think that’s good enough. That would be wrong. Here is why you should definitely consider visiting both of them… and not only to increase your number of countries visited, assuming you count them both (read also : “Collecting countries – what are the rules” and “Is Antarctica a country?”).

Which one is the Arctic?

Whether you visit Greenland or Antarctica, you’ll get the same questions when you come back: “do polar bears eat penguins?” and “how was the Arctic?”. So, a reminder: Greenland is in the North, in the Arctic. Antarctica is in the South, opposite of the Arctic (hence the name, which means “opposite to the north” in ancient Greek). That’s why our tours to Greenland leave from Iceland and the ones to Antarctica from Ushuaia.

Landscapes: ice, ice baby, but not only

Greenland and Antarctica are the two biggest icesheets in the world and we can guarantee that you’ll see towering icebergs in both areas. But the general atmosphere is quite different: while Antarctica is always covered by ice and snow – apart from the occasional pebble beach, you’ll never set foot on soil there and will always have to wear snowshoes – the coast of Greenland is snow-free in the summer. It allows for longer hikes on land, with vegetation: moss, lichen, grass, etc.

Wildlife: that’s a whale lot to see

Both trips will give you the opportunity to observe whales, dolphins or (more rarely) orcas in the wild, which is always a magical sight. Land animals, on the other hand, are vastly different: in Antarctica, you’ll only see penguins and seals – not even insects. No polar bears there: they live in the Arctic! You may see one of those in Greenland (that’s why the guides always wear a riffle during hikes). You can also see cute arctic hares, musk oxen, and the long-toothed mammal, the unicorn of the sea, the narwhal! Birders will be in paradise in both territories: Albatrosses, Petrels and Sheathbills in Antarctica, Fulmars or Black guillemots in Greenland, etc.. What about people? You will see very few in Antarctica: during our last trip, our only human interaction outside of the ship occurred at the Penguin Post Office, where four UK citizens live for six months. Greenland, on the other hands, is home to many people and we’ll land in Ittoqqortoormiit, a settlement of 452 people in a region known for its polar bears and seals

Antarctica’s exclusive asset: penguins

We mentioned penguins. They are obviously the main attraction in Antarctica. They are so cute and clumsy, it’s impossible to get bored of watching them. Our expeditions give the opportunity of seeing different species. On the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll mostly see Gentoo, Adélie and Chinstrap Penguins. In South Georgia, which we will visit on our Grand South Atlantic Tour, we’ll see King penguins and Rockhoppers. And when I say “seeing”, I’m not talking about observing them through binoculars: having no land predators, penguins are super chill and curious and will walk right up to you. Remember: they always have right of way!

Greenland’s exclusive asset: northern lights

Imagine: you’re on the deck of the Hondius, enjoying a drink outside, when suddenly the sky turns green and starts to dance. Northern Lights are one of nature’s most beautiful shows and Greenland is one of the best places to see them. They will make your trip there truly unforgettable. I know what you’re thinking: “aren’t there southern lights in Antarctica?” Yes, there is, but they can be seen only in winter, when the ice is too thick and the weather too harsh for any cruise ship to venture there. We go there in Summer, which means there is no night and thus, no southern lights.

So, Greenland or Antarctica? Northern lights or penguins? It’s a hard choice indeed! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any question!

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